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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - UN report says prisons in state of crisis

UN report says prisons in state of crisis

THE United Nations Centre for Human Rights released a major report on the state

off Cambodian prisons yesterday.

The 119-page document is the first major

report of its kind documenting the situation in the Kingdom's penal

system.

The report's introduction paints a stark picture of prisons

nationwide by stating that "Cambodia's prisons are in a state of

crisis."

"Penal administration is in disarray.  Prison buildings are in

many cases literally falling down. Medical care is often non-existent and

disease and  malnutrition are rampant."

However, the report's author,

Peter Condliffe says that there is cause for optimism and that he is encouraged

by the progress he has seen in prison reform.

"There is some impetous for

reform," said Condliffe. "In a lot of prisons there have been improvements.

There is less torture, shackles and dark cells than previously. Although there

are still some who do use these."

Condliffe said the prison system was

under pressure due to a 12 percent increase in total prison population

nationwide in the last year while at the same time the resources needed to

manage the system have not kept pace with

this growth. This stems from the

increased caseload being taken on the Kingdom's courts.

Overall, though,

Cambodia has an incredibly small prison population.

Currently 1900

prisoners are being held in 24 civilian prisons. TheKingdom's prisoner to

population rate (measured by number of prisoners per 100,000 citizens) is about

22, while the figure for the rest of the world is roughly 106.

Reasons

cited for the relatively small size of the prison population include: 1) the

inherent weakness of formalized systems of public enforcement and adjudication;

2) the reliance upon informal "self-help" systems to resolve disputes; and 3)

the consequent lack of public and enforceable standards of

conduct.

Condliffe said the key to reforming the system was prison

management. He said that while the UN Centre for Human Rights was receiving good

cooperation from the Prison Department's Director Na S. Hieng, there was not a

"lot of uniformity" in how lock-ups were managed throughout the

country.

Condliffe also said that international donors who were aiding

the rehabilitation of the Kingdom's judicial system needed to recognize that

prisons were part of the overall equation and that more resources should be

directed to support reform by these aid agencies.

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